Rookie Yanni Gourde scored a brace as the Tampa Bay Lightning kept their play-off hopes alive with a 4-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Friday.
Alex Killorn also scored for the Lightning, who need to win their final regular-season game on Sunday against Buffalo – and see Toronto and the New York Islanders lose – to take the final spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Lightning are 19-6-4 since February 4.
“We’ve had a lot of guys hurt, but there’s definitely been an urgency in these last 20 games where we haven’t been close to a playoff spot and now we’re a point away,” said Killorn.
Dwight King and Artturi Lehkonen scored for the playoff-bound Canadiens.
— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) April 8, 2017
The desperate Lightning faced a Canadiens team that had already clinched first place in the Atlantic Division and rested three starting defenders – Shea Weber, Jordie Benn and Alexei Emelin.
“I thought we struggled at the back tonight,” Montreal coach Claude Julien said.
“But on Wednesday, we’ll have a lot of players back.”
Nikita Kucherov could have had three goals in the first period. The 23-year-old Russian was robbed by Carey Price 3:59 into the game, then froze the Montreal defense on a rush and hit a post from the slot at 11:42, but Gourde fired in the rebound to open the scoring.
Distribution annuelle des chandails des joueurs!
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) April 8, 2017
At 19:50, Ondrej Palat flipped a pass into the neutral zone that the speeding Kucherov controlled with a quick slap of the stick before beating Price inside the near post.
Lehkonen found King coming off the bench with a stretch pass. He went in alone to beat Andrei Vasilevskiy between the pads for his first goal in 16 games as a Canadien at 9:59 of the second.
Killorn got it back at 14:19 on a rush after Cory Conacher forced a turnover at the Tampa Bay blue line.
Lehkonen saw his pass go in off a skate at 4:36 of the third but, only 21 seconds later, Gourde was left alone on the left side and put Conacher’s pass into an open side for a fifth goal in his last seven games.
Lightning: Host Buffalo on Sunday in their regular-season finale.
Canadiens: At Detroit in their regular-season finale on Saturday night.